Mike Terry, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — David Foster blocked nine shots Wednesday night to break the Utah single-season record for blocked shots.
Other than that, there was not much positive to say about the Utes' dreadful 65-50 loss to Colorado State at the Huntsman Center.
Another bad start for the Utes? Check.
Poor outside shooting? Check.
Poor defensive rebounding? Check.
Too many turnovers? Check.
It was another one of those nights for the schizophrenic Utes (10-12, 3-5), who dropped their sixth home game of the year, this time to one of the Mountain West Conference bottom-feeders.
"Poor second half, poor start to the game ... we got in a hole again early and had to fight our way back," said Utah coach Jim Boylen. "You can't have 16 turnovers and and you can't get outshot by 15 at home. It's frustrating."
The Rams employed a zone defense that stymied the Utes' offense and used balanced scoring on offense with Andy Ogide scoring 14 and Travis Busch and Dorian Green 13 apiece to improve to 13-9 and 4-4 in MWC play.
The Utes didn't have their best outside shooter, Marshall Henderson, who was sitting out because of a one-game suspension for fighting in Saturday night's loss to BYU. Also, Luka Drca wasn't 100 percent after sitting out the previous two days with back spasms.
Boylen said his team missed the threat of Henderson's shooting as much as they missed him on the floor.
"We need an extra shooter on the floor. With no Drca and no Henderson, I'd play zone too against us," Boylen said.
Boylen couldn't explain why he didn't play Jordan Cyphers, who was recruited for his outside shooting, but has played little this season. A day earlier Boylen had said his team would need Cyphers and Chris Hines, who played just three minutes. When asked why he didn't use Cyphers, he simply said, "We didn't use him tonight."
The Ute coach acknowledged he probably shouldn't have played Drca, who struggled all night with five turnovers and just 1-of-3 shooting in 20 minutes.
"I just wanted to help the team, but unfortunately I didn't," Drca said. "I was a step late and my passes were off. I was horrible."
For the last month, Boylen has been talking about the Utes' lousy starts and has tried different lineups recently in an effort to jumpstart his team. Instead the Utes may have had their worst start of the season Wednesday.
They missed their first six shots and had two turnovers, including a 5-second call under their own basket after a timeout, and didn't score until the 14:30 mark when the small crowd gave a mock cheer.
Utah fell behind by 11 at 18-7 when walk-on Adam Nigon sank his third 3-pointer of the game. But Jay Watkins, who scored 13 along with Carlon Brown, made six of the next eight points and the Utes gradually worked their way back into the game thanks to a perfect 9-for-9 from the foul line in the first half.
Trailing 30-29 at halftime, the Utes had some momentum going into half and when Foster scored on what looked like a called play to start the half, the Utes led and appeared to be off and running.
However, over the next four-and-a-half minutes, the Utes could only manage a pair of free throws by Watkins as CSU grabbed a five-point lead.
The lead got as high as nine before the Utes cut it to five at 53-48 with 6:56 left. After a timeout, the Utes had a chance to perhaps get a drive by Brown or Watkins, but all they could come up with was a 3-pointer from the corner by 19-percent 3-point shooter Jace Tavita that missed.
"It's probably not the guy you want shooting it, but he was open and shot it in rhythm," said Boylen.
From there, all the Utes could manage was a single basket by Shawn Glover as the Rams outscored them 12-2.
Boylen said he wasn't making excuses afterward when he said, "I think the injuries have finally taken a toll. That's how I feel."
Besides Drca, Foster was playing with sore knees and backup center Jason Washburn was playing despite losing 12 pounds the last few days due to a case of the stomach flu.
Foster had needed seven blocks to surpass Luke Nevill's season record of 92. He got five in the first half and broke the record with a block of Ogide with 12:30 left in the game.
"That's terrific. I thought he stayed down better tonight," said Boylen.
Foster was surprised to hear he broke Nevill's record and said it felt "great," but lamented that it happened in a loss.
The Utes have a bye in the MWC schedule Saturday and will play next on Wednesday against TCU in Fort Worth. They'll play CSU again on March 3 in Fort Collins.
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